1. Local church membership and endorsement.
Sending agencies want to verify that those who know you best endorse the idea of you becoming a missionary. It is also important because local churches are a key source of financial support for missionaries. Don’t confuse your attendance with church membership. It is possible to regularly attend a church but not be a member. The IMB (International Mission Board) requires three years of membership before someone can be appointed as an apprentice (three-year term) and two years of membership before someone can be appointed as a journeyman (two-year term).
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is normally an initial step after repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The IMB requires that a candidate is baptized by a church via immersion after believing in Jesus for salvation. They also have an additional requirement that the church affirms the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, or eternal security, before they recognize the baptism.
3. Doctrinal conformity
Agencies want to make sure that you can communicate your faith well and that what you communicate conforms to their doctrinal standards. Some agencies are stricter than others. Be sure that you can accept the agency’s doctrine, and that they’ll be able to accept you before applying. The IMB uses the Baptist Faith and Message as its doctrinal statement. To this they have added that they will not appoint someone who currently uses a “private prayer language.”
4. Health and weight
Because overseas living is stressful and medical insurance is costly, many sending agencies require candidates to first have a physical check-up and be in generally good health; this includes being at a proper weight. In many countries, being overweight isn’t as accepted as in North America and Europe. If you are sensing God’s leadership for cross-cultural ministry and are overweight, it would be wise to begin working toward losing the extra weight.
5. Seminary education
Everyone would agree that having a good understanding of the Bible and Christian faith is essential to be a cross-cultural worker. Some agencies measure academic training by the number of credits of seminary education that you have earned. For apprentice (three-year term) the IMB requires you to be in the process of getting at least twenty seminary hours of credit.
6. Evangelism requirement
One of the key assignments of any cross cultural worker is the ability to share the good news with an unbelieving person. Often sending agencies will require specific evangelism training. Also, for apprentice (three-year term), the IMB requires that you have had a part in leading someone to Christ within the last three years. This requirement is their way to have an objective standard to measure a person’s evangelistic lifestyle.
7. Ministry experience
The best training for cross-cultural ministry is cross-cultural ministry! Get involved in your church’s ministry to internationals, ethnics, or immigrants. If they don’t have a ministry, maybe you could help start it. Starting a ministry from the beginning is great training and experience for ministry overseas.
8. Family of origin issues (divorce, abuse, etc.)
At times, the scars from family of origin issues will come to the surface in the stressful environment of overseas living. Normally these issues do not disqualify a candidate, but are areas of investigation to verify that a candidate has worked through them. Consider this as you apply.
9. Alcohol and tobacco
Some organizations have special “lifestyle” issues that are important to them. The IMB requires its candidates to abstain from alcohol while appointed as a missionary and requires candidates to abstain during the application process, normally around a year. They also prohibit habitual use of tobacco.
10. Limited debt
Pro 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Paying back debt can be a distraction to overseas workers. Caution, college students! If you rack up too much debt, you could find yourself delayed or disqualified for appointment with some sending agencies.
11. Supportive family members
Every family member is part of the appointment and sending decision. Life on the field is much more difficult if any family member is against the idea of moving and living cross-culturally. Be sure to work through these issues with each family member before getting very far in the application process. The IMB asks for a specific “calling” for both husband and wife. For single missionaries, it is very difficult to maintain long distance dating relationships while on the field. In most cases, single people should not be dating when they are appointed. It would be best to either get married first or stop dating before moving to the field.
Anything else? What would you add?